Friday, February 28, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was a very intense week at work. I work in & manage a global team that does a lot of traveling. The Corona virus has certainly created a lot of uncertainty. Here are the frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy

  • Some of you may remember our LONG saga with Lowes & our doors. We placed the order in June. The last door was installed in February. This was not a complicated order, and the amount of effort, hassle & errors was truly stunning. They agreed to compensate us once the job was over. I have emailed them multiple times since the job ended & would not ignore the silence. They have agreed to discount the job & credit us back 10%. Which is $1500-1600. Can't remember exactly. It in no way covers the time & hassle, but I'm so happy we will move on & that we will be getting a small discount on the doors. 

Earning money

  • Sold an item on eBay & made $14. 

Avoiding spending

  • M bought me a nice bag for my birthday, as my other one is about to rip off at the handle. It was bigger than what I'd normally prefer, so I took it to the store to exchange for a smaller version. The difference was about $55. Even though I had the receipt, and he paid with a debit card, the store would only give me a merchandising voucher. I looked around & strongly considered buying something else. Instead, I came home, listed the voucher, & sold it for $48. Winner!
  • Ate at home all week, and packed snacks for the kids between soccer practice & games.
That's it from my side. How about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Menu plan Monday

We came home to a very empty fridge on Friday night, so we're in the process of stocking up & making meals. As always, our goal is to prep & cook food on the weekends, as weekdays are too crazy. On weekdays, we have leftovers, or fill in items from the freezer.

Here's our plan for the week/what we've already eaten:

  • Friday - we were in transit at the Vancouver airport, so we all had sandwiches at Tim Hortons. Oh, and Timbits (donut holes). Yum!
  • Saturday - egg roll in a bowl over cauliflower rice. Served with eggrolls, for our carb loving teen.
  • Sunday - grilled chicken & rice
  • Monday - leftover egg roll (both kinds)
  • Tuesday - leftover chicken & rice, perhaps with the chicken served over salad
  • Wednesday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - tbd, or carnitas/tacos from the freezer
What's on our menu for the week? 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Frugalish Saturday

We got back from a fabulous ski trip last night, and are in the process of unpacking, laundry & getting ourselves ready for the week ahead. While I would never describe a ski vacation as "frugal", we did try to do a few things to limit the cost. Here's how we did:

  • Priced out the cost of renting skis vs bringing them. By limiting our other bags to just one carry on each (that was no small feat, with all of the ski gear), we were able to make each checked bag the ski/boots for each person. I have status on United, so the first bag for each person was free. The logistics of getting the skis from the car to the airport counter, multiple times was not for the faint of heart. We saved about $300 doing this. 
  • Stayed in a condo & bought groceries. We rented a condo, and also had an extra bed, so my parents were able to join for a few nights, which was so much fun. My nephew also came with my parents, & it was great to see him. We weren't able to spend much time with him this year due to trips with his dad, etc, so it was really great to get the time, and for him to hang out with the boys on the slopes for a few days. 
  • Made a menu. My mom brought frozen meals (lasagna, taco meat) & my nephew brought soup. We then bought just what we need to feed everyone. Given we had seven people for most of the meals, the menu was critical.
  • Packed a sandwich & snacks for lunch on the slopes. I ate a packed sandwich every day but the last one, and my nephew did as well. The other boys purchased lunches, but also had a sandwich, because... teen boys. ;-) I was very pleased that the food at Whistler was cheaper than Tahoe resorts - by about 20%. 
  • We apres skied at the condo. We had wine & beer, a small happy hour, & just relaxed & enjoyed after our time on the mountains. The boys made popcorn & then went off to the game room. It was perfect!
  • Priced out Uber vs parking our car at the airport. This was particularly important, given we'd have all of the skis & most Ubers can't take that much gear. In the end, it was cheaper to drive ourselves & park at the airport. 
  • Made the most out of our ski passes. We had season passes this year, and were able to ski four days at Whistler. The weather was incredible, and we feel so lucky that we were able to maximize our time. We were up in the morning & out the door when the first lift opened, and back around 3:30-4 the first three days. I bailed around 1:30 the fourth day, but only because I had some nagging knee pain from all of that skiing. 
We debated this trip long & hard, because the logistics of leaving the country, coordinating with seven people, bringing all of your gear, shuffling it around, etc is tricky. But, it was so worth it & we had the best time. And, a photo of the three boys, enjoying the slopes.

I'm off to do the rest of my chores. I hope you are having a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Frugal Friday

It's been a crazy week, with school soccer tryouts, birthdays, work events, & high school orientation. I did buy Sam a sandwich between tryouts & orientation, but we've otherwise stuck to our eating plan, utilizing planned leftovers & other freezer items to smooth the way.

Here are the other frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy
  • Remembered to apply a $12 rebate to my Amazon account right before it expired

Earning money

  • Found a penny on the ground. Big money!
  • Earned $18.24 at Rakuten, and applied the money to our mortgage pay down. 
  • Listed three travel gift cards for sale. We purchased them to use on our anniversary trip, but it's likely we will attach our anniversary trip to a work trip on my end, cutting the flight costs in half. 

Avoiding spending:

  • I wasn't sure which bucket to put this in, but we finally received a refund from the DMV for our car tabs. They sent us two bills, three months apart. I wasn't paying attention, and paid a second time. Eventually, I realized that I'd already paid, and requested a refund. Dealing with the DMV can sometimes be an adventure, but they were actually pretty prompt in the refund. We now have $457 that would have disappeared into the ether without my calls. 
  • We also carpooled with a friend to a high school orientation night for Sam. Cannot believe we're talking about high school orientation!
How did you do? Any frugal wins to share?

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Enjoying the weekend

I was crazy productive last week at work. I think the combination of a few tricks I put in place from my retreat, being behind & having a big backlog of things to tackle, & then just being in the right mindset after my training gave me the edge to do a lot of hard things I've put off. That said, having hard conversations & dealing with challenges is emotionally really draining for me, so I've been sleeping a lot & not worrying about it.

 I missed my morning workouts a couple of days, while catching up on emails from my Asia team. In a few weeks, I'll have handed all of them off to a new manager, so that will free up 8 hours/week of meetings, plus emails. Hurrah!

I managed three runs last week, plus a walk at work, and have a hike scheduled for this morning. I didn't lift weights, so hoping to hit the gym with Nick this afternoon. We also have a futsal game & Sam has math tutoring.

I'm planning to try a new recipe (Picadillo), so will report back if it's any good. M made a Persian feast last night, and we had that with my favorite cupcakes & champagne, as an early birthday evening. The kids wrapped presents (one used paper that said "birthday boy" on it, so we all got a laugh out of it.) Casual, at home birthdays are my favorite kind, by far. The boys got me a plant, a book I've been wanting, a shower spray that I tried at the spa & definitely wanted more of, a purse, and a new hair product. That's actually way more than I'd normally get, but I think M got a few last minute ideas & got them all. I'm feeling very spoiled!

Yesterday morning & afternoon was all about the kids: running club, a birthday party, & two soccer scrimmages, so it was nice to get the time together in the evening. Now we're on to Sam's birthday & our ski trip next weekend. I need to get organized.

It looks like the sun might come out for my hike this morning, so I'm happy about that. Here's the to do list for the day:

  • Hike with friend
  • Make muffins
  • Put picadillo in the crockpot (new recipe, fingers crossed)
  • Get ski stuff packed & organized for Whistler. Determine how many bags we will take
  • Pack Sam's birthday gift
  • Get Nick's birthday gift wrapped
  • Get cash for boys birthdays (my sister Venmo'd me, so I need to put the cash in cards)
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Iron out food prep for next weekend with my mom
  • Figure out a gift for our host (we're staying with M's cousin one night)
  • Plan for the week
  • Laundry (always. There is so much laundry at my house)
  • Print & schedule all training runs from training plan
I'm sure there's more, but that's it off the top of my head! Hope you have a fabulous Sunday!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Frugal Friday

Another week has flown by! Here's what we've been up to. We've done all of the basics (driven our electric car as our primary driver, charged for free at work, meals at home, eaten out of the freezer where possible, etc.)

Saving on things we buy:

  • I was able to purchase discounted lift tickets for my nephew during our Whistler trip, as I remembered there were season pass discounts. I saved 40% for my parents, who are covering his pass.
  • Filled out a reimbursement form for a medical expense, and received prompt payment.

Earning money:

  • I made $7 on an eBay sale (it was a hat I purchased for $5, and sold for $12.)
  • Found a dime on the ground
  • I took our spare change & used a Coinstar machine to turn it into an Amazon gift card that we will use for essentials. Mostly because change is annoying to have jingling around, but also because the money can offset future expenses, vs hanging around the house. 
  • Not so much earning, as prompt payback, but I use my personal credit card to get rewards on work spending (allowed at my company) & file expense reports as quickly as possible to ensure I'm not floating the money. 
  • Hasn't yet paid dividends, but I did adjust some of my eBay listings, in hope of drumming up renewed interest.

Avoiding spending:

  • I had to drive the boys home from a later soccer practice, and was scrambling to get dinner together. I unearthed pizza that we had delivered a long while back. Toasted it up in the oven & the boys loved it. Served it with a salad, plus leftover for the adults. 
That's it from my side. What about you? What have you been up to this week? Any frugal wins to share?

Monday, February 3, 2020

February goals & a menu plan for the week

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

  • Friday - we were very tempted to order out, as I had a late flight on Friday evening. We even priced out an Uber eats order. When I saw it would be $66 for not much food, I couldn't handle it, and whipped together a few freezer options. It wasn't the most cohesive meal, but it worked fine. 
  • Saturday - we tried a new keto friendly chicken pesto dish & it was very good. 
  • Sunday - Super Bowl food. Pizza, wings, chips & guac, etc. 
  • Monday - leftover chicken pesto
  • Tuesday - tacos, chips & guac
  • Wednesday - any other leftover Super Bowl food
  • Thursday - taco salads
  • Friday - TBD

And with that, our goals for February.

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget
  • Stay on track & minimize spending while on our ski trip to Whistler
  • Pay down our mortgage to a new milestone
  • No clothing/shoes/jewelry purchases (this is limited to just me)
2) Family
  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
  • Have two dates with M
  • Schedule a call with M's family
  • Start practicing with Farsi flashcards
3) Fitness/health
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • Run 10 times, continue half marathon training
  • Track calories, eat 5 servings a day of produce. Aim for 1400 calories/day
  • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 10 times.

4) Personal
  • Get together with a friend
  • Investigate offline/non time sensitive volunteer opportunities
  • Journal 10 times
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less)
  • Listen more often vs talking
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing
  • Read one non-fiction book
  • At the retreat I went to, we discussed "disruptive experiments", which are small (or large) things you can try to break habits that aren't working well for you. Here are the three I'm going to try in February.
    • Compliment M once/day
    • Go through my work calendar & aim for 10% of all of my time to be spent on the coaching & development of other people, or myself
    • When faced with a hard task at work, I sometimes procrastinate my surfing the internet. Instead, take a quick walk outside, or do quiet deep breathing. Refocus on the task at hand, and ask myself why I'm procrastinating. Often, the task is so much easier once you just dive in. 
That's it for me! What about you? What do you have planned for February? 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

January goals recap

January was both a very long month (so dreary) & also went by quickly (two work trips). Here's how I did with my goals for the month.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget - we actually did well! We were under on all categories, and snuck in with an under grocery month, despite the extra shopping day. 
  • Achieve the first mortgage paydown milestone - Yes! We are still on track to have 1/2 of the mortgage paid off by the end of the year. 
  • Track all clothing purchases. Known need - bra. Yes, I only purchased the bras. 

2) Family:
  • Do one fun activity with the kids - we skied several days. 
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening - mostly did this. 
  • Have two dates with M per month - we had one
  • Schedule a call with M's family - not yet. 
  • Learn 20 words of Farsi - No, but I ordered a book with flashcards. 

3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 3 lbs - I lost 3.8 lbs!
  • Run 10 times, start half marathon training - I ran 6 times. 
  • Track calories, eat five servings of produce/day. Aim for 1400 calories/day. - I was at 1529/day. The food at the work retreat last week was amazing, so that definitely pushed me up. 
  • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts. (910, 6 & 4, respectively)
  • Meditate 10 times. - I meditated 7 times. 
4) Personal/creative
  • Do something social at least once/month - I spent a day at the retreat with my friend. 
  • Volunteer - No. I still need to think of how to work this into my schedule
  • Journal 10 times - 12 times. 
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less) - I'm more aware of this, and cutting down the snark when I'm being more thoughtful. Other times, it comes out without conscious thought, so I need to keep working on this. 
  • Listen more often vs talking - I'm trying to be more aware of this as well. I'm making an effort, but this is a very ingrained habit. I've probably made a 1-2% improvement, even with being so aware of it. Definitely a good focus area for me for 2020. 
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing - I did really well the first three weeks of the month, and slipped back into old habits towards the end of the month. I will continue working on this. 
  • Read one non-fiction book - I finished one non-fiction book on the flight from Tokyo. I'm about half way through another book. 

Altogether, I'm pretty pleased with the progress, considering I had two business trips in a month. Those months are typically a disaster. I made focusing on m goals something I did at home, and when traveling. What about you? How did you do with your goals?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Frugal Friday (or, Saturday)

I was out of town at a work training, and ended it by extending a night at a spa/retreat. It was, by no stretch of any imagination, frugal, but it was incredible. It involved a big wellness focus, meditation, yoga, & quiet team. It was so incredible that I'm thinking of how to build it into our travel plans for the future. It was exactly what I needed.

Saving on things we buy

  • I called the DMV to request a refund on a double payment that somehow happened. It was no fun dealing with the DMV, but it's $457, so definitely worth the pain. 
  • I bought 2 lbs of taco seasoned ground turkey & 1 lb of ground sausage for $.99/lb. 

Earning money

  • I took all of our change to a Coinstar machine, and redeemed it for an Amazon credit. I don't know that's earning money, but I'll take it. We need a new toilet part. So glamorous. 

Avoiding spending

  • I spent 2.5 hours on the phone with TurboTax this morning to get a handle on a state re-file. There was a software error, so I was entitled to audit protection for 2018 federal taxes. I needed to talk to them to understand how to file an amendment to state taxes. It saved approximately $500 in penalties by proactively refiling. A TON of money has been spent correcting this error ($20k), but it was money we would have owed last year, had the software correctly calculated our mortgage deduction. So, while it stings, I'm glad to have it wrapped up. 

What about you? How did you save money this week? 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Menu Plan Monday

I won't be around for most of the week, but I'm still trying to plan the menu & keep the boys from eating out.

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

Friday - no one felt great (colds), so we had a grab bag of things from the freezer
Saturday - chicken stir fry
Sunday - egg roll in a bowl
Monday - soup & sandwiches
Tuesday - leftover stir fry
Wednesday - leftover egg roll in a bowl
Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
Friday - TBD, as I fly back that evening. Likely frozen pizza

What about you? Anything interesting on your menu plan this week? I'm hoping to make a chicken, pesto, artichoke dish next weekend. It was recommended by my sister, and would also use up chicken & pesto lingering in the freezer.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Using things up & other Sunday activities

I accomplished everything on my to do list from yesterday, although admittedly, my back is still really uncomfortable. I'll have to come up with other options for reducing the discomfort.

M & I spent quite a bit of time working on our plan for our Whistler ski trip. The logistics of the trip are a bit more than I'd expected at the time of booking, so we are working through our options to reduce cost but ensure we don't add to much complexity. More to come on this.

The boys went to running club, and I went for a three mile run, so that was all good. Exercise & sunshine are the most effective ways to beat jet lag, so I'm trying to get back on schedule.

Nick made chicken stir fry (that, he wouldn't eat) yesterday, and it was pretty good. He's taking a cooking class at school, so he has tried out a bunch of recipes. We were impressed with the flavor. I think it's hilarious that he will cook things that he won't even try to eat. He's still reasonably picky about food options. Unfortunately, it didn't yield any leftovers.

A week or so ago, I made a list of things I wanted to use up from the pantry. We've made a bit of progress. Details below.

  • Sushi rice (Sam bought for a school cooking project, so this is the remainder) Used for chicken stir fry
  • Multiple packs of sardines. These are M's, and he bought them when he first started doing Keto, but hasn't eaten many. No one else will eat them for sure, so I need to gently motivate
  • Several packages of Liptons onion seasoning. My parents bought it when they were here. I don't have any recipes that use this, so will need to come up with something
  • A huge jar of tahini. I need to make hummus, but will need other ideas, because there's no way we will eat that much hummus
  • A few jars of homemade pesto. I have a chicken recipe that uses pesto, so just need to make it
  • Pine nuts. Not sure what I'll do with these
  • 1/2 a bag of frozen springrolls. No one really loved them, but they need to be eaten
  • So, so, so many bags of frozen bananas. I've encouraged M to buy fewer each week, but that has gone unheeded. 
  • Mini pizzas. I'll make these for the kids for an upcoming lunch or dinner. - the kids have eaten two, but more remain
  • Mini naan breads. These will go nicely with the hummus. 
  • A package of gnocchi (meal kit).
  • A package of salami & sopressata 
  • 1 package of chicken noodle soup - Used up for lunch on Friday. 
  • 1 box of tomato pepper soup - Used last weekend, when no one was feeling very good. 

I've encouraged M to start eating the sardines. Let's see if we make any progress on those. M stocked up on freezer items last weekend, so we are back to absolutely stuffed freezers. I need to try & work through the giant bags of bananas, in order to create more space. Maybe a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread for the kiddos today!

And with that, here's my to do list for today:

  • Take Nick to indoor soccer
  • Go for a run. It's raining, so this may happen at the gym
  • Call my mom to discuss Whistler
  • Call back the car rental company about a ski rack
  • Wash all the sheets/make the beds
  • Make egg roll in a bowl
  • Write up my weekly summary for fitness (calories, workouts, etc.) 
  • Pack for Arizona
  • Order an international sim card from work
  • Make chocolate chip banana bread
That should keep me busy enough. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday updates

I fell asleep (with my clothes on) Friday night around 7 pm, and then couldn't fall asleep at all last night. Jet lag really interferes with my routine & habits, but I'm hanging in there & hoping it's a problem that's quickly resolved this week. 

I leave for another trip on Tuesday (I never do back to back trips, so this is unusual). This trip is in Arizona, and domestic trips are even more unusual for me. Additionally, it's a training class that involves breaks for physical activity & down time, so I'm hoping it's manageable to have the two back to back. It is hard with the kids & M, so I'll try to make sure there is plenty of family time this weekend & next.

I can't believe January is almost over! I have no work trips in February (we are going to Whistler over ski break), and then a trip to London in March. Beyond that, I'm hoping to also avoid travel in April, as my entire team is flying to me that month. 

We have started to get graduation information (8th grade graduation) for Sam, as well as high school registration details. M handled the task of standing in line to drop off all of our registration information last week. He described it as "long and painful", but given he rarely handles this type of kid stuff, I'm sure it was a bit overwhelming. Sam & I will head to a class registration night mid-February, and he will select his electives for his freshman year. Honestly, it is both overwhelming & I can't believe he's going to be starting his freshman year soon. Craziness.

We are also locking our summer travel plans, and trying to get things pinned down for the rest of the year. It's our 15th anniversary in October, so we are hoping to attach personal travel to one of my work trips to Europe. Normally, I'm all about getting the dates secured, but I'll need to wait to closer to the trip to know when I can plan dates for London. It will need to be a bit more ad hoc than I'd prefer. More to come on that.

So, what am I up to today? Here's what's on the schedule:
  1. Take the kids to running club & go for a run myself
  2. Foam roll my back. My back is aching from all of the travel. It hurts to lay down, so I need to get this sorted.
  3. Laundry. It just piles up in my absence
  4. Make a Costco list
  5. Vacuum
  6. Clean the bathrooms
  7. Clean the kitchen
  8. Make a packing list for Tuesday
  9. Defrost chicken for tonight's meal (Nick is making stir fry)
  10. Menu plan for the rest of the week
That should do it. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was my 15th trip to Tokyo this week. I actually can't believe I've been there so many times. It was a productive trip, and the international flights went as smoothly as possible. Here are the frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy

  • I bought flights to pick up the kids from Disneyland this summer (my parents are taking them), & went through Rakuten -> Raise to buy discounted Southwest gift cards. It was save me about $10 off the purchase price
  • Emailed customer service about a $2 reward that was used towards a freebie. The rewards program on the earning side is good at our local store, but their technical redemption side is terrible. I'd say I email about 2/3 of the time. They are always very friendly & resolve it quickly, but... also, the in store people can't help. Has to be an email to their IT team. 
  • I flew a partner airline from my preferred domestic airline, in an attempt to earn status this year. Having status means I accrue more miles, but also reduces costs if you need to change or cancel a flight.
  • I always make sure I stay at a hotel where I accrue points, which eventually saves us money when we redeem for free travel.

Earning money

  • I had a last minute ask for a friend of a friend to use our vacation house. We don't charge much, but no one was going to be there (unusual), so we were able to rent it out, making $150. It's more like $130 or so net utilities. 
  • I paid for the work hotel expense on my credit card, and will be reimbursed by work. I earn 3% in cash back from my credit card.

Avoiding spending:

  • I left the boys a gift card to a salad place, and ensured we had plenty of quick meal options for the week, which means no (additional) money was spent on dining out.

That's it from my side. How about you? What did you do to save money this week?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was another week, that's for sure. M was traveling, so I did splurge & take the kids (mine + bonus carpool kid) to In & Out for dinner. We were celebrating a good grade Sam received after intense studying for a geometry test. Otherwise, we did well with menu planning, eating at home, etc.

Saving on things we buy

  • Used grocery store rewards  & clearance to buy 2 dozen eggs, 1 lb sausage, 1 lb of ground beef & 6 avocados for $2.26

Earning money

  • I sold quite a bit this week. Wasn't expecting that, but I'll take it!
  • Made $45 on my old ski jacket. Which, was a lot more than I'd expected to make, given it's close to 20 years old. 
  • Earned enough on Swagbucks to get a $25 Amazon gift card
  • Sold another three items on eBay, including a $100 piece of luggage. The other items were much smaller
  • Sold our old bike rack for $50 on our neighborhood site
  • Found a penny on the ground, while picking up library books

Avoiding spending

  • Returned an item for Sam that was recommended for homework time allocation. We didn't find it valuable at all, and it was more of a distraction than anything else

Updated to add my frugal fail. I was dropping Nick off at school, and realized I'd forgotten to pack lunches. (I'm normally not in charge, but M is out of town.) Had to give the kids $10 cash for lunch. Oops! Definitely more than I'd have spent on a packed lunch. Organization, planning & packing your own food are always winning combinations.

In other bigger frugal news, I received my annual bonus today. I maxed out my 401K for the year, and will put everything else towards our mortgage. Woohoo! The money will be in & out of my account in record time. But, pay yourself first.
What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Things I want to use up

I'm going through the freezer & pantry & creating lists of things I want to use up in the upcoming months.

Here's what's on the list:

  • Sushi rice (Sam bought for a school cooking project, so this is the remainder)
  • Multiple packs of sardines. These are M's, and he bought them when he first started doing Keto, but hasn't eaten many. No one else will eat them for sure, so I need to gently motivate
  • Several packages of Liptons onion seasoning. My parents bought it when they were here. I don't have any recipes that use this, so will need to come up with something
  • A huge jar of tahini. I need to make hummus, but will need other ideas, because there's no way we will eat that much hummus
  • A few jars of homemade pesto. I have a chicken recipe that uses pesto, so just need to make it
  • Pine nuts. Not sure what I'll do with these
  • 1/2 a bag of frozen springrolls. No one really loved them, but they need to be eaten
  • So, so, so many bags of frozen bananas. I've encouraged M to buy fewer each week, but that has gone unheeded. 
  • Mini pizzas. I'll make these for the kids for an upcoming lunch or dinner. 
  • Mini naan breads. These will go nicely with the hummus. 
  • A package of gnocchi (meal kit).
  • A package of salami & sopressata 
  • 1 package of chicken noodle soup
  • 1 box of tomato pepper soup
Getting rid of even some of these would be a huge win. What about you? Do you keep a running list of things you need to move out of your pantry or freezer?

Monday, January 13, 2020

Menu plan Monday

As usual, we focus on cooking & food prep on the weekends, and leftovers during the work week. Here's what's on the menu for this week:

  • Saturday - Nick was supposed to make stir fry, but that didn't happen. I made a Keto friendly parmesan chicken. It was fine, but nothing I'd add to the regular line up.
  • Sunday - Carnitas with pico de gallo & guacamole
  • Monday - Tacos
  • Tuesday - Leftover parmesan chicken. I may turn these into sandwiches.
  • Wednesday - carnitas
  • Thursday - tacos & or any other leftovers
  • Friday - Naan & cauliflower crust pizza, for various diners
We have salad with all of our dinners. For the carnitas & tacos, the adults make them into salads, and the kids eat them wrapped in a tortilla.

What's on your menu plan this week? Have you tried any new recipes you'd recommend? 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday plans

It's another lovely day without an official schedule. I'm going to enjoy it! I do still have things to do, so let the planning for the day commence. I've actually been on quite a tear selling things (5 things out of the house in the last day), so I'll be getting those items prepped & ready to sell. I'm always happy to have the side hustle kick in.

I'll also be getting some batch cooking done, so we can fill the freezer with easy protein options.

The kids are still studying. Well, to be honest, Sam is studying (and, has been all weekend) & Nick acted like a sulky moody teen & refused. He cares a lot about his grade, but it's his decision. Hopefully he'll come around, because he will need the time before exams next week.

Here's what else I have planned for today:

  • 3 mile run
  • Laundry (gentles)
  • Laundry (regular stuff)
  • Make several batches of taco meat
  • Make crockpot carnitas
  • Run to the produce stand
  • Make guacamole & pico de gallo
  • Plan my schedule (work & family) for the week ahead
  • Package all eBay sales
  • List 2 new items (let's see what I come up with!)

That's it for me. What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

It's Saturday, lack of frugality & plans for the day

A few months ago, M & I discussed a shared anniversary gift. (We ended up going to Hawaii with his work, and spent money out of pocket there as well.) But, with extra cash that M had, we opted to do a deep cleaning on the house.

We ordered the deep cleaning service through Amazon, and had it done yesterday. I was pretty impressed, and I'm a stickler for high quality cleaning. They cleaned the entire house, the oven, fridge, & all of the cupboards (kitchen & bathrooms). It was a splurge, but worth it. M is pushing to have the house cleaned monthly, with the same service. Between adding the gym & a monthly cleaning service to our budget, it would be quite a bit of lifestyle inflation. That said, we are planning to trim our travel budget way back, and we have dropped our childcare budget as well. We could certainly afford it.

One of the reasons we stopped paying to have our house cleaned years ago was the obvious financial benefit (we'd just moved into an expensive house & were trying to make progress on the mortgage & afford a few critical projects), but also to ensure the kids saw the connection between the messes they make & cleaning it up. I don't want them to ever feel like they can make a mess at the house & not be responsible for it - that someone else will come to take care of it. The monthly option might work well, as we would clean 3 times per month, and the cleaner would do a bit of a deeper clean the other week. It would be a huge gift on the weekends when I travel. (I typically leave on a Saturday in order to get to Asia or Europe in time for the work week.)

Decisions, decisions. When I opted to keep this job, M pushed me to consider adding this service, so we could make our own lives easier with my work travel.

The boys have no soccer this weekend. This is unheard of! We discussed skiing, but both boys have math exams next week, and Sam's math counts towards his high school registration, so it very much counts. They will be studying all weekend. I'll also try to get everyone to the gym for a break, and maybe take them to the climbing wall. (They have gift cards from Christmas).

Here's what else I want to do with my free day today:

  • Attend a body flow class at the gym. This one is new to me, but looks like a good blend of yoga, pilates & tai chi
  • Reorganize the pantry. After we had the pantry doors installed, Nick was home & helpfully arranged the pantry. On the most accessible shelf are his snacks, not any actual meal ingredients... definitely not how the pantry is attended to be used ;-)
  • Make muffins & potentially a small batch of pico de gallo (both for M)
  • Make a menu
  • And a Costco list
  • Go to Rite Aid for cold medicine for Sam, & we're out of Dryel (dry cleaning alternative)
  • Dryel my work clothes
  • Grocery store for a few sale items
  • Produce stand
  • Create a schedule for the week after next, when I'm traveling
  • Fill out paperwork for high school orientation
  • And, paperwork for insurance
  • Go through house for decluttering & additional items to sell
That's it for us. What are you up to today? Any fun plans? Any perspective on the house cleaning?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was a pretty typical week for us. We ate leftovers, I drove the electric car to/from work & charged there for free. We packed lunches for the kids, and ate lunch (for free) at work. Here are a few frugal wins for the week:

Saving on things we buy

  • This won't help immediately, but I realized that a hotel I'm going to for a retreat is part of the Hyatt. I added my points number, so I can accrue points. This will help offset a future stay.
  • I found a Starbucks card that Nick won at a Christmas game. It must have been in a pocket & gone through the wash, so it looked beyond use. I was able to get the numbers & find the pin, so I've added it to my Starbucks account. (I'll give him the $5 in cash, which he prefers.) It almost went to the garbage, so I'm glad we were able to salvage it.

Earning money

  • Sold an item I got for free at work (a prize for a game) on eBay. Made about $11
  • Listed new items on eBay

Avoiding spending

  • Used Amazon padded envelope to mail eBay sale
  • Planned ahead for a night when I had to be out of the house for high school orientation. Made dinner in advance so the boys wouldn't be tempted to eat out.
  • Returned a pair of winter boots I don't need.
  • I was able to book flights for my parents to come over spring break. They'll watch the kids while we are working. I used miles & spend $7 out of pocket for taxes. Woohoo! I saved $368.60 by using miles. 
That's it for us. What about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Making work trips "work" for me

One of my ongoing struggles with my job is that it includes international travel. For a variety of reasons, international travel for work is no fun. Jet lag, it's hard on my family, I typically gain weight, it's more difficult to exercise, two very long travel days are miserable, etc. I've also decided in 2020, than on the whole, things with work have stabilized, and I will stay in the role, at least for the short period. I'll be continually evaluating to ensure the role remains a good fit.

So, that leaves me with the unsatisfying & frustrating international travel piece. I decided to try & change my mindset for 2020, and get the work travel to "work" for me, vs resenting/dreading it so much. While some things are out of my control, I also want to ensure I'm doing what I can to make the trips as easy as possible.

Here's how I'm thinking of this for 2020:

  • Have M join me at the end (or beginning) of one of the work trips. Plan a personal trip attached to it, which will reduce costs of us going on an international vacation, but allow us to explore new places. (We will have my parents come to stay with the kids, as we normally would.)
  • No drinking on work trips. When I'm not traveling, I have 1-2 drinks on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. I'd like to cut this down to 1 drink/evening, even when I'm at home. This is for health, calories & financial purposes. On work trips, we tend to have happy hour events basically every day, and I have wine on the flight to/from, at the airport lounge, etc. While I never drink beyond the point of moderation, the calories still add up quickly & means that I'm typically coming home with an extra pound or so. This will be VERY hard for me, as the glass of wine or beer at the end of a long work day with colleagues is very much ingrained in the business travel. I'll also have to work to break my own habits of ordering (free) wine on the flights or in the airport lounges. Even if I'm able to break this habit 80% of the time, it would be a huge improvement.
  • Status. I'm planning my work trips in a more organized way this year, in an attempt to earn gold status on my preferred personal airline. This requires some effort, as my personal airline doesn't fly internationally, so I need to work through partner airlines, understand limitations, etc. And, typically this only works for trips to Asia, not Europe. But, if I can achieve gold status, it will give us a lot of perks & benefits for personal travel, which puts a nice spin on the need to travel.
  • Miles/points. Use miles for personal travel & be clear on how much we're saving by using these perks. I was able to book our travel to Whistler using miles earned exclusively via business travel, saving us about $3k. I've been saving hotel points for a similar type of deal, and hopefully we will have opportunities to track & use these as well in 2020-2021. Knowing that the travel pays off in some small way for my family helps me feel more positive about it.
  • Credit card perks. I'm able to use my personal credit card for hotel expenses while traveling. I earn 3% back on all travel charged to my credit card, so there is some small financial benefit.
And, I always aim to stay healthy while on trips: get plenty of sleep (difficult, with time zones), work out, & eat well. I'm going to amp up my efforts in this area in 2020. Any other tips or suggestions you'd recommend? How do you stay healthy when you internationally travel? 

January Goals

With 2020 well under way, I thought I'd better get my January goals posted. I try to make my monthly goals a good representation of our yearly goals, only... smaller. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in January:


  • Stick to the budget
  • Continue to aggressively pay down our mortgage
  • Track all clothing purchases. (Yearly goal is below $500 for me). Known "needs" are snow boots & 1-2 new bras.
  • One fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
  • Have two dates with M 
  • Schedule monthly video calls with M's family (who can't visit due to Visa issues)
  • Learn 20 new words of Farsi
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • Run 10 times, begin half marathon training
  • Track calories. Eat five servings of fruit & veggies/day. Aim for 1400 calories/day.
  • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts.
  • Meditate 10 times
  • Do something social with a friend
  • Volunteer
  • Journal 10 times
  • Finish one non-fiction book
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less)
  • Listen more often (vs talking)
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing

I try to make my goals very measurable, & most of them are. On the personal goals side, there are a few where I will just assess progress at the end of the month, vs having a tangible measurement. Are you ready for January? What's on your goal list for the month? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2020 Goals

I've made a few tweaks to my goals for the year, so here they are:

1) Financial

  • Stick to our budget (more details in upcoming posts about budget changes we've made for 2020)
  • Pay off 1/2 of our mortgage. We bought in February of 2017. Our goal is to hit the half way point by September, 2020.
  • Spend $500 or less on clothing for myself

2) Family

  • One fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
  • Two dates with M per month.
  • Schedule monthly video calls with M's family, who is unable to visit.
  • Related, learn 20 new words of Farsi, so I can communicate (even a little) with M's family

3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 15 lbs. Stop gaining & regaining. Slow & steady is fine, but keep it consistent.
  • Run 100 times. Run a half marathon in under 2:25.
  • Track calories, average 1400 cals/day
  • Complete 12,000 minutes of cardio, 100 strength & 50 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 100 times

4) Personal/creative

  • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month
  • Write & journal regularly
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less)
  • Listen more often (vs talking)
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing (I don't swear ever in front of most people. I have a friend/colleague who is a terrible curser, and it's rubbed off of on me.)

I'm super excited for my goals for the year. I also think that some of them will really stretch me! What about you? What are your goals for 2020? Any big goals you are excited about? 

Monday, January 6, 2020

December Goals Recap - how did I do?

As usual, December whizzed by. We had a few great trips (the Oregon coast, time with family & a ski trip to Lake Tahoe). I also had a work trip to London, and we all got through the last few weeks of work & school. Here's how we did with our goals.

1) Financial 

  • Stick to the budget - we were definitely over on our grocery budget, as we stocked up our vacation house, entertained while we were there, and splurged on nice steak for New Year's Eve. Otherwise, the budget was largely as expected. 
  • Make $150 in side hustle - I made $33.53, which isn't much to write home about. However, I also paused all of my eBay sales, as I was traveling & didn't want to fuss around with it. 
  • Sell three items - I did sell three items - a jacket that I bought for Sam that didn't work out, and a few items on ThredUp. 
  • Use 8 freezer items - I crushed this & used up 17 items! My freezer looks so much better. As a bonus, I also used up a few lingering items at our vacation house. 
  • Use 5 irregular pantry/fridge items - I think I did okay, but didn't track this one well. 
  • Finalize our 2020 budget - yes, it's done!

2) Family - spend more time together as a family

  • Do one fun activity with the kids - we had a bunch of nice walks on the beach, & beach frisbee. 
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening - I rarely used my laptop the last couple of weeks of the year, and did okay earlier in the month. 
  • Have two dates with M - we had one date night, but my sister came along. I'll still count it. ;-) We also enjoyed a nice long stroll on the beach. 
  • Continue with Sam's plan - I set up an appointment for the doctor in January, as a follow up. 
  • Deep clean the entire house - nope, but this is happening next week!
  • Finish door project, and budget/plan for trim - sadly, one door was again broken before installation. We've been waiting for this project to be completed since JUNE. I still haven't heard back on when we should expect the last door. :-( 
3) Fitness/health - I'm just going to laugh at all of these December fitness goals!
  • Run 10 times
  • Track calories - 1400/day
  • Work out 30 times
  • Meditate 10 times

4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things - I had fun with my sister when she came to visit us at our vacation house. 
  • Volunteer 1x - I tracked down the correct forms so our soccer club could continue to get gift matching through my employer. 
  • Journal 15 times - I journaled 6 times, as I wasn't on my laptop for much of the last two weeks of the year. 
  • Read one non-fiction book - I'm about 1/3 of the way through with one. 
  • Set 2020 goals - Yes, I have them ready to go. 

So, all said, December pretty much went as expected. The critical items were done. And, not to sound like a cliche, but i ate all of the yummy things, and drank plenty of wine. My clothes are feeling snug & I need to get back to a much cleaner eating plan.

How about you? How did you do with your December goals? Any big wins? 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Goals - how did we do

2019 was a wild adventure. I took a sabbatical, received a big promotion at work, went through a bunch of work changes that have eventually led to work improvements (but, the process was crazy). M switched jobs 2x due to org changes. We took lots of trips (together & with others). Those included: several trips to Las Vegas, a trip to Napa, a Hawaii girls trip, several family ski trips, multiple trips to the Oregon coast... Plus multiple work trips. I also completed a half marathon & ran our traditional family relay, with Sam joining in this year.

We struggled with house projects (still awaiting a delivery date for our final door), worked with our pediatrician to have Sam diagnosed with ADHD & got that process underway. Sam was hit by a car on his way to school while biking, and we are incredibly grateful that everything turned out okay.

Largely for us, it was a year of changes & growth. We are all growing, particularly the teen boys in our family! While we didn't accomplish everything on the list, I'm really happy with what did get done. I always set our goals incredibly high, so even when we don't hit all of them, I know we worked hard. I will say that losing weight will need to be a top priority for 2020. As I get older, this process is harder & while I invest a lot of time into my fitness, it's not translating into results, so tweaks are required.

Here's how 2019 went!

1) Financial:
  • Stick to the budget - well, we did well in some categories, & not well in others. Most of our intentional overspend was paying down our mortgage, and adding extra to the boys college accounts. We also increased our travel spending & home projects, as I was on sabbatical. Each year, we continue to work to prioritize our spending in line with our values, & we continue to track all of our spending, so we can reflect back at the end of each month/year. While far from perfect, I'm giving us a yellow on this one. 
  • Come up with a "pay off our house" model, & a 3/5/10 year plan - we instead focused on a "pay off half of our mortgage" plan, and have this mapped out. It gives us a nice focus that is realistic, and allows us to get the mortgage down to a much more manageable/comfortable level. 
  • Every month, come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis. - I didn't really do this often. I had a few wins, but we've optimized a bunch of stuff already, so it's hard to do this on a recurring basis. 
  • Make $3,000 in side hustle money (I made $2,791 in 2018, so this will be a nice stretch) - I made $3700 in 2019! Woohoo!
  • Continue to track "unplanned" money & divert it to our goals - We had $5084 in non-paycheck money (this includes the side hustle). I tracked this, and sent some to the boys college account, and some to pay down our mortgage. 
  • Increase our charitable giving to cover the new corporate match. - We did increase our charitable giving in 2020. Because I wasn't paid over my sabbatical, we didn't quite hit the corporate match.  

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids.  - We did lots of fun things with the kids... ski trips, kite flying, frisbee on the beach, etc. 
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - I've made lots of improvements on this one, and ended up setting an "off the computer" goal. We also joined a gym together. While this one ebbs & flows a bit, overall, I'm pleased with the progress. 
  • Have two dates with M per month - We achieved at least one each month, and then also took a few long weekends together, plus an unexpected bonus trip to Hawaii in November. 

    3) Fitness/health - lose 15 pounds. Definitely not. I'm starting the year almost exactly where I ended last year. I made some progress in the spring, but unwound that over the summer/fall. 
    • Eat 5 servings of fruit & vegetables/day - yes, I was at 5.13/day. 
    • Build & follow a training plan & run a half marathon in under 2:25. - I ran a half marathon, and mostly followed a training plan, but was nowhere near my PR. 
    • Work out every day in 2019. (Realistically, this will be completing 365 workouts, vs hitting every day. I want a bit of flexibility for days I'm sick, traveling, etc.)  - I completed 323 workouts for the year, so a bit off of the mark. 
    • Get back to more actively tracking my calories - I tracked pretty much all non travel & vacation days. Of course, those big outliers are what interferes most with my progress. 
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio - I ended the year with 11,890 minutes of cardio. 
    • Complete 100 strength workouts. - I completed 85 strength workouts. 
    • Complete 75 stretching workouts. - I completed 31 stretching workouts, so not even half of my plan. 
    • Complete 100 meditations - I meditated 42 times. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)  - I largely did this. 
    • Take a sabbatical - YES, and it was amazing!
    • Decide on returning to work part time - I was promoted after my sabbatical, which changed my plans a bit. But, I'm comfortable with things for now. 
    • Stop using electronics by 7:30 each evening - this became more of a family goal than a work goal, but nonetheless, did reasonably well on this one. 

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month. - while not evenly distributed, I did plenty of this over my sabbatical, and tried to find other times to make this happen. I added a couple of social lunches to my calendar (work lunches), went for walks with friends, etc. 
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month - this hasn't happened for a variety of reasons. I need to invest the time to figure out what this could look like in 2020. 
      • Write/journal - I journaled 115 times in 2019, and really, really enjoyed it. I'm going to keep it up in 2020. 
      • Make something homemade for Christmas - we changed our plans & while I did make a few homemade things, I want to be even more creative in 2020. 
      • Make photo books & get rid of our all extra digital & photo clutter - well, I did organize our photos, made a wedding album & a baby book for Sam, but ... pretty much petered out after that. The rest of the photos are digital & didn't get further than that. 

      What about you? How did you do with your 2019 goals? Any big wins? Any goals you are carrying over to 2020?

      Saturday, January 4, 2020

      Frugal Friday/Spendy Saturday

      We are now back from skiing, and trying to get the house unpacked after two different trips. Laundry is everywhere, ski clothes & gear litter the house. There wasn't a ton of snow in Lake Tahoe, but good times were had by all. We had a great New Year's Eve at the cabin we rented, and had a lot of laughs as a family. Skiing is not for the faint of heart (driving, gear, packing/unpacking, $$$$$$) but we love the active family vacation. Although it wasn't cheap (at all, at all), here are a few frugal wins from the last week or so:

      Saving on things we buy

      • We used a $10 Costco offer to earn a gift card. This came in the mail, with a reminder to set up our membership to auto renewal. Typically, I'm opposed to auto renewal, but given we will definitely renew our membership next year, it makes my life easier to have it set up to renew on my credit card. And, we earned a $10 Costco card to boot.
      • I took advantage of a BOGO50 sale at Target to buy a few new bras. My others have given up the ghost, so this was well timed.

      Earning money

      • I found $.35 on the ground during skiing. 
      • I've paused all of my eBay sales, so haven't made any side hustle recently. However, I did relist all of my sales today, and added four new items. 
      • M played a few hands of craps while we were waiting to meet friends for dinner. He made enough to cover: the kids time at the arcade, dinner, and a few hundred extra. 

      Avoiding spending

      • We returned a couple of Christmas gifts that didn't work out.
      • We packed snacks & drinks for the car ride both ways (our house is 4-5 hours from Lake Tahoe).
      • We forgot our backpack the first day of skiing, but remembered to bring it the 2nd & 3rd day. While the kids prefer a hot lunch, they are so hungry that they also eat the sandwiches, trail mix & treats we pack. I opted for a packed PB&J one day, and split with M two of the days. Food at the ski resorts is crazy pricey. Think, $80 for a casual lunch.
      • We made our own dinners 3 of 4 nights, and met up with friends for a quick bite another night. We packed our own food in a cooler, and brought back the leftovers. 
      I can't describe the mountain of laundry that's all over the house. Even though the unit we stayed in came with a washer & dryer (and, I used it!) we came back one day earlier than planned, to give us more time at home before work & school starts again on Monday. I'm thrilled with the bonus time, but because we were packing up, I didn't have a chance to run a load of laundry. Each skier has a base layer (top & bottom), socks, fleece, ski pants, glove liners, etc. Most of it can't be dried, so it's line drying all over the house. It looks very glamorous around here.

      My to do list for this weekend:
      1. Take Nick to soccer - x2
      2. Costco
      3. Wash the car we took skiing (M will handle this)
      4. Order Nick's birthday gift while it's on sale
      5. Return 2 Amazon items
      6. Buy a new bra
      7. Buy bows for next Christmas. We haven't bought any in a decade or so, and now we are out/the old ones have fallen apart.
      8. Laundry
      9. Repack ski bags
      10. Relist all eBay items
      11. List new eBay items
      12. Go to the gym
      13. Decide if I'm keeping new winter boots
      14. Investigate summer camps
      15. Figure out February break plans
      16. Close out the books on 2019 spending
      17. Build 2020 fitness tracker
      18. Review/post December goals
      19. Post January goals
      20. Update 2020 goals

      There's more, but that's all I can think of for now. Too tired! ;-)  Hope you all had a fabulous New Years, and are ready to tackle 2020!